Tag Archives: JahSolidRock

Brinsley Forde’s solo journey

Brinsley Forde is a living legend. He’s a skilled musician, talented singer and founder of legendary UK roots outfit Aswad. Last year he dropped his debut solo album Urban Jungle, a set produced by acclaimed duo Not Easy at All Productions. Reggaemani caught up with him on the phone while he was in London rehearsing for a show.

Legendary reggae singer Brinsley Forde.

Legendary reggae singer Brinsley Forde.

Aswad is possibly the most well-known roots reggae band from the UK. They formed in the 70s and dropped their self-titled debut album 1976, to wide critical acclaim. They had – or have since they are still active – a conscious and social approach and much of their early output was hard and spoke to the angry youths in the UK.

The band formed in 1975, the same year as another roots rocking outfit – Steel Pulse. The nucleus of Aswad – meaning black in Amharic – was vocalist and guitarist Brinsley Forde, bass man George Oban, keyboardist Courtney Hemmings, lead guitarist Donald Griffiths, drummer Angus “Drummie Zeb” Gaye and Tony ”Gad” Robinson, who later replaced Courtney Hemmings on keys and later George Oban on Bass.

They reached pop-chart success with Chasing the Breeze in 1984 and the smooth chart-topper Don’t Turn Around in 1988. But their best song to date is probably the hard-hitting Warrior Charge, used for Dennis Brown’s Promised Land and later versioned by Nas & Damian Marley.

No longer part of Aswad
When I reach Brinsley Forde he is in London rehearsing for a show where he together with Jazz Jamaica All Stars and the Urban Soul Orchestra performs an orchestral interpretation of The Wailers’ legendary album Catch a Fire. The first shows were held in 2012 and were so successful that another round had to be scheduled in 2013.

He’s no rookie in performing music originally recorded by reggae legends. In the 70s he and Aswad guested with a number of Jamaican singers, for example Dennis Brown and Burning Spear on his album Live released in 1977.

Brinsley Forde is no longer part of Aswad. He left in 1996, but didn’t take the name; even though he’s the one who came up with it.

“For me it’s like marriage and family. The band was like a unit, but it was time for me to move on. I wanted to take a different journey, but I’m grateful for everything. I still call Aswad family. And after so many years of singing and one love, we never argued about money or whatever,” explains Brinsley Forde over the phone, and adds:

“But it might come a time when we come together and work again. It’s one love between us. It was a break-up, but we can still work together.”

He wanted to take a different journey and left for spiritual reasons. Today he lives on the Canary Islands, about 100 miles west of Africa.

“It’s a little piece of Africa, and it’s a long story. You have to leave it to the Father. It was his decision I ended up there, but it’s a great place to write,” he says.

Friend inspired him
On the Canary Islands he has over the years done a little bit of everything. He has had a bar there and was also one of the DJ’s to open the UK’s first digital BBC radio station with his reggae radio show Lively Up Yourself.

“I wasn’t doing music seriously for some years, but I had a friend on the Canaries, guitarist Marco Vavassori, who played in a band, and he asked me if I could come and jam with them. So I went to see how it felt,” he says, and continues:

“To sit and play with people just for the love of music steered my whole vibe and I understood why I started with music. It inspired me to start working with music again.”

Different being solo
Rumors about a solo album from Brinsley Forde have been circulating for a number of years, so Urban Jungle came as no big surprise. But he reveals that he has a number of albums cooking – one for a producer from Germany and one for Sly & Robbie.

Brinsley Forde strumming his guitar.

Brinsley Forde strumming his guitar.

“This was meant to be the first, but there are more albums to come. I love my music and I love what I do, so this won’t be the last,” he reveals, and continues:

“But it’s also difficult. I have been working with great musicians like Drummie and Tony and I needed to re-educate myself. You have other people to bounce with when you are on your own. You can’t have any doubts in yourself, and this time everything has worked out fine.”

Working with Not Easy at All
Urban Jungle was released via Dutch label JahSolidRock and Platinum Roots from the UK with production by Marc Baronner and Manu Genius, formerly known as Not Easy at All Productions.

For this album Brinsley Forde was approached by Ras Denco, owner of JahSolidRock and he told him about Marc Baronner and Manu Genius. But when talking to Brinsley Forde about recording a new album it was not an easy decision.

“Music business is a different thing. It’s difficult to be both commercial and being artistic. I struggled with it for a long time. Because once you have success it’s hard to maintain your integrity. Stick to what you believe in and stay true to yourself. It’s a learning process and I had to decide what I wanted to be and what I wanted to do,” he says.

Brinsley Forde had heard a couple of productions by Not Easy at All and liked what he had heard. So Marc Baronner and Manu Genius sent him a couple of riddims. The first being the one used for She Don’t Want to Try and the second being Can’t Stop Me Now, lifted as the first single off the album.

“The vibes were great,” remembers Brinsley Forde, and continues:

“I went to Holland and met them and it was instant. They loved the vibe of early Aswad and early Steel Pulse. Roots music. That was the kind of album they wanted. But for myself, it was ‘do we really want go there or move forward’? But it has been a blessing. It sounds relaxed. Manu wanted the 80s vibe and he really captured it. It was a great collaboration and I really enjoyed making the album.”

A conscious effort
The album was recorded using two studios – one in Holland and one in the Canaries, and according to Brinsley Forde the mixing and production were meticulous.

“I wasn’t just voicing an album and Urban Jungle isn’t a riddim album. It was like a production and it took a lot of time to finish. Each track has a special feeling and we bounced ideas back and forth. It was a constant molding of ideas. Rhythms were changed, drum patterns were changed. Hope it shows,” he says and comes back to working with what you believe in:

“I’m struggling with this business. It’s about having hits and recording commercial songs. I want to make a good song that maintains what I believe in.”

Urban Jungle is a conscious effort in many respects and several songs have deep and spiritual meanings, like the title track.Brinsley-Forde-Urban-Jungle_01

“The song Urban Jungle is just an observation of a couple of wars that have taken place over the last few years. Like Europe coming together and joining up for war. The countries bankrupt themselves,” he says and gets into a discussion about the actual motives behind certain wars:

“We have been told it was about this and that, but what was the reality? You have to make your own decisions. The title invokes all that. It’s an urban jungle and the strongest will survive. And I want to ask a question – what do you see? This is what I see,” he explains, and continues:

“We were told about weapons of mass destruction, but my view is that it was all about economics.”

But there is also a song like Sodom & Gomorrah, a track with a more local perspective.

“It’s about what has happened in London. Mark Duggan was shot in Tottenham and it’s still believed to have been unjustly by the police and it sparked the riots,” says Brinsley Forde.

“You have to believe what you are saying”
Brinsley Forde’s first solo album certainly echoes from the 80s, but the music scene has changed a lot since he started almost 40 years ago. Digitalization and technology improvements have been key for these changes, but also globalization and the rise of consumerism.

“I remember Bob [Marley] saying I and I is the root. And reggae music is the root of modern day music. Just take rapping. Herc [Kool DJ Herc] from Jamaica was playing his sound system in New York City, and if it wasn’t for him, hip-hop would not have been here today,” he believes, and continues:

“Technology has caused quality control to go out the window. You have to know your craft in this time when music is disposable and quick,” he says, and concludes:

“I’m hearing more cultural music coming from Jamaica. This is what we need. Social commentaries last. Not just jumping up and down and sing. Lyrics are important and you have to believe what you are saying. You owe it to yourself.”

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Absolutely essential debut album from Addis Pablo

Addis Pablo CD FrontAddis Pablo – son of the late and great producer and melodica virtuoso Augustus Pablo – dropped his debut album today. It’s titled In My Father’s House. The title suggest that he treads the same road as his father. And well, he does. At least partly. He plays blows his melodica with the same grace and easiness as his father, but his debut album is less twisted than some of his father’s work. In My Father’s House is peaceful and has a very natural feel to it.

Addis Pablo has during his short career dropped a number of strong singles and wicked cuts on one riddim compilations. Last year he teamed up with Dutch label JahSolidRock, probably best known for their superb albums from Apple Gabriel, Earl Sixteen, Brinsley Forde and Chezidek.

And In My Father’s House is yet another superb and absolutely essential release from this reggae powerhouse and producer Marc Baronner from Bass Galore Productions, formerly known as Not Easy At All.

Its 17 tracks takes the listener on a meditative, haunting and melodic roots reggae journey. It’s roughly divided into one melodica cut, followed by a vocal version from Earl Sixteen, Chezidek, Sylford Walker and Exile di Brave aka Jah Exile. On top of that a slice of heavy percussion laid dub.

Addis Pablo followed his father and became a world-renowned musician, but at the same time he created his own sound on the very consistent In My Father’s House.

The album is now available on CD and digital download. A double LP drops on March 4.

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Get to know Augustus Pablo’s son Addis Pablo

Addis Pablo – son of the late and great melodica player and producer Augustus Pablo – has over the past years taken up a career as a performer and producer following in his father’s footsteps.

Addis Pablo was raised by his father in a musical environment on Orange Street in Kingston, receiving the teachings and morals expressed by Augustus Pablo, and continued to be instilled by his mother.

Last year he dropped a number of strong cuts, and one of the best was a melodica cut on the Unfair riddim and a version of Selassie Souljahz.

In 2013 he also teamed up with Amsterdam based reggae powerhouse Jahsolidrock for his debut album. The Dutch label, known for albums from Apple Gabriel, Brinsley Forde and Chezidek, is likely a great partner for his musical project called In My Father’s House.

In the same tradition as Augustus Pablo and his Rockers International label, the Dutch label and Addis Pablo embark on a musical journey where rootsy reggae meets Rastafari mysticism and first class musicianship.

The Marc Baronner produced album will be available on February 25 and features artists like Earl Sixteen, Prince Alla, Sylford Walker, Chezidek and Exile the Brave. In the meantime, check this documentary about the project.

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Powerful debut solo album from Brinsley Forde

Brinsley Forde Urban JungleBrinsley Forde has been at the heart of UK reggae for more than 40 years, even though he has kept a low profile on the Canary Islands since he left Aswad in 1996. He has made occasional recordings and concerts, and rumors about a full-length album from him have circulated for many years. And together with the PlatinumRoots label Dutch JahSolidRock Records finally made the project materialize.

Urban Jungle is Brinsley Forde’s excellent debut solo album produced by Marc Baronner and Manu Genius from Dutch Not Easy at All Productions. These two musicians are known for their work with artists such as Earl Sixteen, Chezidek and Apple Gabriel as well as their higher than high quality.

Their standard is always way above par, and Urban Jungle is no exception with its live instrumentation and full horn arrangements. Far from it. It may be their finest work yet and they’ve managed to capture Brinsley Forde at his very best.

He sings with leisure and passion about personal experiences of hardship, violence, love and relationships. In album opener Sodom & Gomorrah he describes a London in decline and in Blaze it Up he reminisces about smoking ganja back in the day.

David Hinds from Steel Pulse lends his voice to several tracks and Brinsley Forde also uses no less than seven backing singers, eight including himself. The result is stunning with grand and beautiful choruses as well as catchy ooo’s and aaahhh’s.

Aswad has made a number of immortal albums essential in any record collection and with Urban Jungle Brinsley Forde has shown that he’s capable of making a rock solid album on his own. File next to Hulet, New Chapter and Showcase.

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A solid reggae debut from Lloyd de Meza

Dutch soul singer Lloyd de Meza has teamed up with his compatriots in production crew Not Easy At All Productions and label JahSolidRock. The result is his love-infused debut reggae album Back to Eden, a set based on the rootsy rock-solid backing that has previously provided the foundation for albums by Chezidek, Apple Gabriel and Earl Sixteen.

One of Lloyd de Meza’s first takes on voicing reggae was Part of My Life included on the various artists’ compilation Cultural Vibes Vol. 1 put out in late 2010. Previously he has released several hit singles  in the contemporary soul/R&B vein in his native language.

Apparently Lloyd de Meza started to record reggae by accident. He dropped by the JahSolidRock studio, enjoyed what he heard – pounding bass lines, groovy drum patterns and melodic horns – and voiced one riddim after another.

Lie to Me was the first single from Back to Eden and dropped about a year ago. It contained some wicked clavinet work and a catchy chorus. The album is in the same strong vein, and particular highlights include the three combinations Back to Eden, Mama and City of Love with Joggo, Richie Spice and Kinah, a female singer I’d love to hear more from.

Back to Eden shows once again that the combination of Not Easy At All Productions and JahSolidRock works very well, and I hope they will start building new riddims soon, since this is the fourth set that uses more or less the same riddims. However, I can’t say I’m tired of them yet.

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A perfect fit for Earl Sixteen

You can’t go wrong with a showcase album. And certainly not if the production is handled by Not Easy At All and Earl Sixteen is responsible for the vocal duties.

The collaboration between the JahSolidRock label and production crew Not Easy At All has certainlyborn some sweet tasting fruit. First the Chezidek album and then the full length set from Apple Gabriel. Both praised by critics.

Now these Dutch fellows drop another scorcher – The Fittest from foundation artist Earl Sixteen, responsible for the wicked, and recently re-issued, album Reggae Sound and several timeless tunes.

The Fittest does not resemble the hardcore riddims and production style courtesy of the late Mikey Dread. The sound on The Fittest is airy, relaxed and smooth with great live instrumentation.

It contains 10 tunes, each followed by its dub version, or, as in one case, by its U Roy deejay cut.

Hardcore followers of JahSolidRock and Not Easy At All will notice some familiar riddims. Changing Times utilizes the backing from Chezidek’s Live and Learn and Rise Up is based on Gifted Ones by Apple Gabriel.

A bunch of the riddims are new, and I literally get the chills each time I hear Modern Slavery. Clavinet, saxophone and a pulsating riddim similar to early 80’s Sly & Robbie. Earl Sixteen’s pleading voice and the moaning saxophones are intertwined in a perfect combination. An excellent mix of hopelessness and joy.

Modern Slavery is also a good example of Earl Sixteen’s conscious lyrics that concerns issues such as the situation in Africa, slackness, child labor and trafficking. He sings “there are more slaves today, than there were four centuries away…trafficking drugs just to survive” and calls repeatedly for a solution.

This is the third stunning album released by JahSolidRock and Not Easy At All. I have a feeling there is more to come, even though it will be a tough task to outshine any of these three releases.

The Fittest reaches the street on May 26th.

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Reggaemani presents – Riding the reggae train in 2010

My latest mixes have been dedicated to certain themes such as one drop hip-hop and modern ska.

My new mix – Riding the Reggae Train in 2010 – is instead a lot more diversified and ranges over several reggae genres and offers a little something for everybody. One drop, dubstep and dancehall all comes together for this treat.

The mix is built on six different riddims from producers hailing from Switzerland, Denmark, France and the Netherlands. The artists are both veterans and newcomers and are mainly from Jamaica with a few exceptions.

As usual – Riding the Reggae Train in 2010 is a continuous mix with no full tracks and some added sound samples. If you like what you hear, please support the artists and the labels and purchase the tunes. Most of them are easily available as mp3, vinyl or CD.

Listen in the player below and download by clicking the link (right click, save as). You can also listen and download via Soundcloud. Enjoy!

Reggaemani – Riding the Reggae Train in 2010

Artist – song title (label – riddim)

1. Fantan Mojah – The Majesty Don’t Please (Weedy-G – Jaguar)
2. Luciano & Spectacular – Be Yourself (Weedy-G – Jaguar)
3. Skarra Mucci – Jah Blessings (Weedy-G – Jaguar)
4. Mystic MC – Water Drop (Burton – Water Drop)
5. Alec Burton – Water Dub (Burton – Water Drop)
6. Konshens – The Way Life Goes (Bombist – Hustlin’)
7. Peetah Morgan – Di Government (Bombist – Hustlin’)
8. J-Boog – Coldest Zone (Bombist – Hustlin’)
9. Benaïssa – Sodom and Gomorra (JahSolidRock)
10. Mikey General – Jah Jah Have the Handle (JahSolidRock)
11. Mikey General – Jah Jah Have the Handle Dub (JahSolidRock)
12. Alborosie – Rainy Day (dubstep remix) (Soul Vybz – Sunrise)
13. Luciano – Business Lock (dubstep remix) (Soul Vybz – Sunrise)
14. Soul Vybz All Stars – Sunrise Version Dub (dubstep remix) (Soul Vybz – Sunrise)
15. Konshens – War Straight (Roots Survival – Protection)
16. Polyfamous & Gyptian – It’s Amazing (Roots Survival – Protection)
17. Mr. Diamond – Be Careful (Roots Survival – Protection)

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Listen to Apple Gabriel’s teachings

Earlier this year the fruitful relationship between label JahSolidRock and production crew Not Easy At All gave us the acclaimed Judgment Time by Chezidek.

Now they’re at it once again. And this time they’ve laid their hands on veteran Apple Gabriel from legendary trio Israel Vibration, probably best known for their dread 78’ debut The Same Song.

Teach Them Right is Apple Gabriel’s follow-up to his solo debut Another Moses released in 1999. During the past eleven years Apple Gabriel has been living a tough life in the streets of Atlanta, USA.

His struggling is reflected in both the music and the lyrics on Teach Them Right – “To all those homeless people, I know your cry” he sings in the album opener Mr. Conman, a great introduction to this phenomenal and occasionally autobiographical album.

Teach Them Right is produced according to the 12” principle. This is a great Jamaican tradition that offers the listener a dub version to the original tune and makes the music experience very enjoyable.

The arrangements are bluesy and jazzy without ever losing their reggae roots. Apple Gabriel sounds like he did back in the 70’s – hissing, nasal and with a clear vibrato. Sometimes it sounds like his is whispering rather than singing and his delicate voice may seem a bit shaky at times. But that’s all part of his narrative. Don’t be fooled, Apple Gabriel’s voice is very distinct and may take some time to appreciate. But when you come to understand it, you will love it.

In Gifted Ones he pays tribute to great soul singers and plays effectively with melodies to a wicked jazzy backdrop with some major percussion work. In Give Them Love, Apple Gabriel gets political and corrects fellow rasta singers that show intolerance. This tune is based on Chezidek’s Live and Learn, the best tune on his Judgment Time album.

Teach Them Right is quality roots reggae produced in a very careful way. It’s vintage without sounding outdated or dull. And Apple Gabriel’s devotional singing stands in bright opposition to all the auto-tuned crap released these days.

The album is released in Europe and the U.S. on the Heartbeat label on November 15th. Hopefully their wide distribution will give this release the recognition it needs.

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JahSolidRock takes reggae back to the roots

Dutch-based label JahSolidRock is behind one of this year’s best releases – Judgement Time by Jamaican singer Chezidek. The album has an air of reggae from the 70’s and 80’s. And that’s what this label is all about according to the CEO.

As many other reggae labels, the story behind JahSolidRock started with a sound system and two friends with a passion for music.

Ras Denco – now CEO of the label – and singer Benaïssa Linger had a sound system in the late 80’s and early 90’s, named Umojah Ashanti. But something went wrong. Not between the friends but the music was changing, and not in a good way. At least according to Ras Denco.

− We did the sound system thing for a couple of years with great fun and a lot of devotion, until the interest in roots music was changing toward dancehall and slackness. We could not find ourselves in that vibe of reggae, so we decided to put the sound system thing at a lower speed.

The label starts
It seems however that they couldn’t keep their hands off the reggae business. About three years ago they decided to start the JahSolidRock label and used their contacts with several of the Jamaican artists they had met during the sound system days. One of the first releases was Benaïssa’s sun drenched EP Voodoo/Coconut Water.

− We hooked up with Silver Kamel records in New York and released Benaïssa’s debut album Tables Turn, which did pretty good worldwide. The album was a collection of songs that all had a positive message; some roots, some crossover. From that moment we continued recording and have done some more releases over the last years, writes Ras Denco in an e-mail to Reggaemani.

The label’s biggest record so far is Chezidek’s acclaimed album Judgement Time that reached the streets earlier this year. Ras Denco explains some of the ingredients behind the success.

− We put a lot of time and love in the album, and during the recordings in the studio with Chezidek there were also nice and positive vibes. We tried to keep that authentic roots reggae vibe from back in the days on the album; by using real musicians, real horns, real drums etc. And it’s a real album, a studio album, not a collection of lost songs from different producers.

Taking it back to the roots
And that’s the mission for the label – taking reggae back to its roots in the 70’s and 80’s. Ras Denco believes the greatest and most creative reggae was produced during that period.

− It was handmade music. Music came from the heart in those days and had a positive message, he writes and concludes:

− Musicians were important, and the artwork made in those days had something mystical about them. It’s exactly as David Rodigan said in an interview with you a few weeks ago – music coming from Jamaica does not make any sense anymore. It’s all hip-hop influenced, dancehall orientated and there is no more praising Jah. We try to go back to that foundation reggae sound, by working with great musicians, and people who still have love for reggae music.

Value for the money
But producing roots reggae is often expensive, something that the producer Frenchie pointed out a few weeks back in an interview with Reggaemani.

− It’s difficult to pay all musicians and production costs to make a great album, and still try to make profit out of it. But still we think that people will pay money for great productions. We prefer to make a ten tune showcase album with all ten tunes solid, than a 23 track album, where only two tracks will stand the test. I also believe the buying public want some value for a CD, Ras Denco explains.

Several albums ahead
He writes that the label has some interesting albums lined up. All of them made with real musicians and with a great deal of love.

− We’ve a compilation titled Cultural Vibes coming out in October. It collects all releases we’ve done last year and this year on 7” and digital releases. We want to showcase our tunes on this album, and we hope to get some positive reactions, he writes and continues:

− We’ve also just finished recording the new album from Apple Gabriel titled Teach Them Right, which will also hit the streets in October. It’s a special album, since it has been eleven years since Apple Gabriel did a solo album. We’ve also recorded a new album with Earl 16, and as we speak we are working on future projects with Chezidek, Brinsley Forde, and one of the most promising artists out of Jamaica – Zamunda.

If all these releases are any way near the high standard of Judgment Time by Chezidek, I’m confident that my record collection and JahSolidRock will have a long and fruitful relationship.

A FEW FAST ONES TO RAS DENCO:
 
Favourite artist?
Don Carlos, David Hinds and Dennis Brown

Favourite label?
Island, Negus Roots, Live and Learn and Bullwackies

Favourite album?
Ijahman Levi – Haile I Hymn

Favourite tune?
Ijahman Levi – Moulding 12” version

Favourite producer?
Errol Brown and Chris Blackwell

Favourite riddim?
All Roots Radics riddims will do

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